Macon's Bill Number 2

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Macon's Bill Number 2
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act concerning the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France, and their dependencies, and for other purposes.
Statutes at LargeStat. 605
Legislative history

Macon's Bill Number 2,[1] which became law in the United States on May 14, 1810, was intended to motivate Great Britain and France to stop seizing American vessels during the Napoleonic Wars. This bill was a revision of the original bill by Representative Nathaniel Macon, known as Macon's Bill Number 1. Macon neither wrote it nor approved it.[2] The law lifted all embargoes with Britain and France (for three months). It stated that if either one of the two countries ceased attacks upon American shipping, the United States would end trade with the other, unless that other country agreed to recognize the rights of the neutral American ships as well.[3]

Napoleon immediately saw a chance to exploit this bill in order to further his Continental Plan, a form of economic warfare he believed would destroy Britain's economy. A message was sent to the United States, stating the rights of the American merchant ships as neutral carriers would be recognized. President James Madison, a staunch opponent of the bill, grudgingly accepted Napoleon's offer. However, Napoleon had no intention of ever following through on his promise, and Madison soon realized this as well, ignoring the French promise. The British were still highly offended by the agreement and threatened force, thus motivating Napoleon to withdraw altogether. Still, the damage had been done and soon the U.S. and Britain were entangled in the War of 1812 due to the continued harassment of American ships and escalated tensions between the United States and the nations of Europe.[3]

A general consensus among historians is that this bill was effectively useless, as it was quickly seen that the European economies played upon the weaknesses this bill created. As a result, the bill's parameters were never enforced, due to Madison's correct interpretation of France's deviation. Macon's Bill Number 2 responded to the ineffectiveness of the Non-Intercourse Act (1809) and the Embargo Act before it.[citation needed]

Macon did not vote in favor of the finished draft of the bill.


  1. ^ Formally known as "An Act concerning the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France, and their dependencies, and for other purposes."
  2. ^ Garry Wills (2002). James Madison: The American Presidents Series: The 4th President, 1809-1817. p. 87.
  3. ^ a b Merrill, Dennis; Paterson, Thomas (September 2009). Major Problems in American Foreign Relations: To 1920. Cengage Learning. pp. 132–33. ISBN 978-0-547-21824-3. Retrieved 21 December 2011.